This past Memorial Day weekend, I got to watch a young up-and-coming dyer practice her skills:
Meet Nora. She’s seven years old, and she’s been dyeing yarn for a few years now, starting out with food-safe dyes in the kitchen, and working her way up to using the same dyes her mother uses in the downstairs dye studio.
Like many other indie dyers, Nora has her own yarn club, allowing her to explore her muse, testing the waters via regular installments of exclusive colourways sent to a select clientele. The first installment’s theme was butterflies, the second was oceans; this time around, the theme is flowers. As I was visiting the weekend she had to dye the flower yarn, Nora graciously invited me to come into the dye studio and observe her at work.
Dude, I was totally thrilled.
First, Nora and her mom, Jen, spent some time at the computer, looking to the painter Monet’s work for inspiration.
Then, it’s time to go downstairs to the dye studio and get set up.
As Jen starts getting the dyes ready, Nora explains her vision for the flower skeins to me.
Meanwhile, the blank yarn has been set to soak:
Jen works closely with Nora to ensure that she mixes the precise shades of each colour that Nora wishes to use:
While the dyes are being prepared by Jen, Nora gets the table ready:
Then, Jen carefully pours the colours into the squeeze bottles Nora uses to paint the skeins.
The wet skeins are laid out on the dye table in pairs. Nora paints her yarn so that each skein is half of a set; she says that the two people who get the halves of a pair are thus friends. (Awwww.)
It’s time to start painting! This first set of skeins is a “grassy meadow” set; each end is painted green and the centers are painted with a meadow of colourful wildflowers:
A final sprinkle of color, and this set is done!
Besides the “grassy meadow” sets, there are also “sky meadow” sets–these have blue ends with flowery meadows in the centers. This means that Nora pauses for a while between skeins to carefully consider how she wishes to paint the next set.
The next set of skeins start out very differently:
Nora takes a few moments to explain what she is doing to her assistants:
The best part for me was seeing the joy and pride Nora took in her own creations.
After the painting is done, Nora squeezes out the excess water and dye:
The damp yarn is laid in a pan, ready for the steaming and drying process:
Some of the skeins had a guest dyer (ahem!) assist with the painting, under Nora’s guidance:
That guest dyer was ME! Painting those skeins was the most fun I’ve had in a looooong time!
Many, many thanks to Nora for letting me take pictures of her at work.
The only regret I have is that I didn’t stay long enough to see the yarn packaged up with its matching stitch markers and other goodies chosen by Nora in a sticker-bedecked envelope for shipping off to the yarn clubbers. Think of it: Every month or so, you’d get Nora’s Yarn plus a bunch of wee prezzies selected for you by a seven-year-old who adores horses, mermaids, fairies, unicorns, and dogs.
Doesn’t get much better than that.
A sky skein, photo courtesy of Holiday Yarns.
If you would like to read more about Nora and her yarn club adventures, they start here. There’s more info about her dyeing process; plus there are two entries about the butterfly skeins (one with a video!), one about the ocean skeins, and one with more photos of the flower skeins on her mother’s blog.
P.S. My own creativity is now immensely enriched because a young girl shared hers with me. Just sayin’.